Anette Iren Johansen recently left the Church of Scientology and has been blogging about her experiences, citing “terrible abuses committed within the church.” But she saved until now her biggest secret: She was one of numerous women the church auditioned in 2004 and 2005 when Tom Cruise was looking for a new wife. She’s the first, however, to go public about her experience.
Anette spoke to Henry Meller, US reporter for Woman’s Day, and yesterday his story hit store shelves in Australia.
Anette grew up in Fredrikstad, about an hour south of Norway’s capital of Oslo. In 1996, at 19, she moved to Copenhagen, Denmark for college, eventually studying to become a veterinarian. In 2002, a flier in the mail got her interested in Scientology. Within two years, she had given up college and was deeply involved with the church.
Then, the Indian Ocean tsunami hit the day after Christmas in 2004. Her family had visited Sri Lanka and Indonesia the year before, so they volunteered to go with other Scientologists to the region.
When she got back at the end of January, 2005, she was asked to take part in a special audition at the Copenhagen org. At the time, she was 27 years old.
Until that time, she had made some appearances in Scientology magazines and training films, and she assumed this was something similar. She noticed right away that there was something unusual about this project. There was a makeup team, for example, which she’d never seen before. She wanted to keep it light, but the woman in makeup told her it was important for this audition to be made up with eye shadow and glossy lips.
And that was the other odd thing about it — everyone working on the audition was a woman.
Anette sat down before the camera, and instead of giving her a script, they just asked her about herself.
“They asked me so many questions about my life, my family background, everything I’d ever done in Scientology. There was a lot of talk about Tom Cruise at that time — he had just been in Norway [hosting] the Nobel Peace Prize concert.”
It seemed odd, but she got through it. Another strange detail: no one else seemed to be taking part in the auditions.
Before she could leave, she was required to sign a waiver, promising not to mention anything about the audition. (Another thing that hadn’t happened at earlier auditions.)
About two weeks later, she received a phone call from a man in California who identified himself as “Golden Era Productions, international management.” She was at the org’s canteen at the time, in a room with other people. He told her that he had some private questions to ask her, so she went to a nearby bathroom and locked herself in.
“I got a call from a top guy at the main base in L.A. He said it was regarding my audition and that he needed to ask some very private questions,” she says.
“He asked, ‘Do you have any sexual perversions?”
She told the man that she didn’t have any perversions. (She was between boyfriends at the time.)
He thanked her, and told her he might be back in touch with her. But she never heard anything else about the audition or from Golden Era.
We called Marc Headley, who worked on some of these auditions before he left from the International Base.
“That was for Tom Cruise, absolutely,” he says.
Headley worked on technical projects at the International Base in California before he left early in 2005. At one point during the summer of 2004 he was asked to watch a highlight reel of the auditions that had been made for Tom Cruise.
“Those are the exact same questions that they were asking the other girls,” he says.
“The reason the sexual question came up was that they had some girls with histories that weren’t so great. So they were being careful. This girl has to be perfect in all ways.”
We asked him why Scientology would be going as far afield as Denmark.
“It was slim pickings in Los Angeles. In LA there were a lot of pretty girls, but they had a lot of baggage, by Scientology standards.”
According to Vanity Fair, Nazanin Boniadi had been auditioned in October 2004, then had dated Tom from November 2004 to January 2005. So does it make sense that Anette would be among girls auditioned early that same January?
Headley says it does make sense.
“If you remember, Tom took Yolanda Pecoraro with him to the IAS gala in October. Even though he was seeing her, they were already auditioning Nazanin Boniadi,” he points out.
“The auditions didn’t stop until he found Katie later in 2005. So even if he was with one of the girls, they were still working it, casting for the next season of Scientology’s version of The Bachelor.”
After the audition, Anette realized that there seemed to be no film that came out of it.
Anette continued her Scientology courses. She also went through some career changes. In 2005 she started a new business, selling vitamins. Then she worked as a translator. And in 2008, she began working as a business consultant.
But it was around then that she began having doubts about Scientology. Like many other church members, she was put off by the 2007 push for “The Basics” — a repackaging of old Scientology books and lectures that members were required to buy, at $3,000 a set.
By 2010, she had stopped taking Scientology courses. Then, in the fall of 2012, a couple of interesting things happened.
She learned that a friend she had in the church, Geir Isene, had left Scientology and had gone through a divorce. The two of them began dating.
Also, that September, Maureen Orth’s story appeared in Vanity Fair, describing Nazanin Boniadi’s experiences after she had been “auditioned” for Tom Cruise.
The “auditions” had first been revealed in Marc Headley’s 2009 book, Blown for Good, and Lawrence Wright’s 2011 New Yorker story, “The Apostate.” Over time, Anette had begun to wonder about that strange audition she had gone through at the Copenhagen Org. Headley had written that some of the auditions had happened overseas — could she have been tested for Cruise?
What did she think about Tom after she read the stories about the auditions?
“I think what happened to Katie is terrible. Even now it must be very difficult for her because she still has a child with him,” she says. “Tom is totally cult minded. I’m very happy that I wasn’t matched up with him.”
So who do we think will be the next to jump ship? My money is on Travolta, because much like Joe Simpson he will eventually find some dick that makes him say "FUCK everything. I'm out."